A strange inmate in an asylum
|A Cadmium Sky
It was not just that Jimmy the Fauve was different. That would be an understatement, since his differences went much deeper than his appearance. The obvious things, like his blue face, green arms and grey hands with their orange fingernails, were enough to set him apart from the instant of one's first encounter with him.
No doubt his nickname was the inevitable result of these surface details but it was apt beyond the knowledge of those who coined the name. Jimmy was the Fauve in ways that no one understood.
The clue was in his paintings, those garish pictures he produced for the other inmates. There was undeniable skill in his work, a heightened photographic realism akin to the Dutch masters but made shocking in his choice of colors. Color was wildly unpredictable in his paintings and none of them were those we are so accustomed to. But he was not creating negative photographs either, apparently scornful of the straight application of the opposite to the expected color. No, in his paintings color seemed random and untameable, perhaps the product of each passing mood of the artist, perhaps meaningless or merely an expression of rebellion.
Naturally, the psychiatrists and psychologists seized upon Jimmy's paintings as clearly the product of a deranged mind. But their theories fell flat as the paintings refused to reveal any secrets they might hold and Jimmy himself remained obstinately silent on the subject of meaning. "I'm a realist," was all he would ever say.
In the end, the professionals owned themselves beaten and Jimmy was allowed to see out his days wandering the corridors of the asylum, occasionally presenting another patient with a painting that, from their brief resulting conversation, seemed to have been on order, and sitting in the grass underneath one of the trees in the garden.
This last he could do for hours at a time, never moving but gazing at the world with serene concentration. Often the attendants had to call him in as the light dimmed in the evening and Jimmy would rise and return to the building without protest.
That was another of the things that marked Jimmy out as different. He was utterly compliant and never complained or demurred at a request. All situations seemed the same to him, as though his life was carried on elsewhere and his body was merely in temporary residence in this place.
So we should not be sad as we watch Jimmy the Fauve on his deathbed at last. It might be that he does indeed prepare to leave for a better place. We might notice how sunken have become his cheeks and his face almost as fleshless as a skull, if only it were not so brightly blue against the faded and threadbare pillow, and his crimson hair, now shot through with the emerald threads of old age, like a surreal halo above his head. Yet understand too the deep sense of peace that emanates from the still form in the drab bed, a center of eternity in the greyness that has been his cell for so many years. There is something different about this man, something so very, very different about Jimmy, something much more than the strangeness of his coloring.
It is in his eyes that we see it, those eyes of violet hue that we have gazed into so often before. But here, now, an instant, a flash of vision as, for once and so briefly, we are allowed to see through those eyes. And in that moment we are transformed as the world becomes alive around us. The cell, no longer dingy in the last rays of sunlight but exploding into a riot of color, the walls greens and purples, bright yellows and orange, and the bedclothes reds and blues, the stark iron bedpost not grey but loud crimson, dark ultramarine rugs strewn across the sky blue floor.
Oh yes, the sky, the sky. Out there, through the window that gives Jimmy his last glimpse of the world, we can see the vermillion sun setting in a cadmium sky. And Jimmy's last words, breathed out as if in contentment at a race well run:
"You see, it was only the truth after all. I'm just a realist."
Word Count: 712